Size Inclusive- The Phrase That’s Bamboozled the Fashion Industry

Size inclusive. If it’s you’re first time hearing that phrase; I’d have to guess that you’re not that into fashion nor social media. Better yet, you might just exist in a body that is not marginalized. Whether you’re familiar with the phrase or not, it’s popularity has become rampant in the fashion industry over the last year or so. The “body positive” movement has evolved gone from being about representation of marginalized bodies in media and entertainment to a very colonized version of “love the skin your in” while still being in a body that is generally accepted. I believe that the “size inclusive” rhetoric has spawned from this white-washed social media movement.

Size Inclusive

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, inclusive is defined as: not excluding any of the parties or groups involved in something. So when we hear the phrase “size inclusive”, it would stand with reason that it means to include all sizes, not to leave any particular size out. Right?

Wrong.

The Fraud of it All

There is not a fashion brand that exists that is truly size inclusive. To do so they’d have to accommodate the bodies that extend beyond the most extreme largest sizes. However, there are brands that DO encompass size inclusion in a great way such as Universal Standard which carries sizes 0-44 and Superfit Hero that carries a L-7XL. We can even say brands such as Torrid that go up to a size 30 (size 6), Christian Omeshun who goes up to a 32, or Ashley Stewart who carries up to a 34 are definitely more inclusive than many other brands.

This term “size inclusive” is a buzzword that many brands are now using to appeal to their audience and expand their reach. The problem with that? Many brands really aren’t all that inclusive. We’ve seen brand after brand excitedly announce they’re now inclusive; but when you look really close it’s evident they’re not. In fact, it doesn’t take much digging to see that they’re not.

Recently UK based brand RIXO excitedly announced their “EXCLUSIVELY INCLUSIVE” collection. The sizes? UK 6-16.

Let’s just unpack this for one wee moment. (Let’s not even touch on the one black model)They’re proudly announcing they’re launching exclusive inclusive sizing which caps at a 16?? And a size 16 in US sizing is a 14! Most of us know that size 14 is at the absolute smaller end of plus size fashion. You can pretty much find a size 14 in any store. So how is it that they can comfortably announce being exclusively inclusive when the average size woman in the UK IS a 14? So what’s included as inclusive is the standard size of a woman. We won’t get into the various implications of a bridal brand only carrying up to a standard size. Do women who are larger not get married?

Very recently the GAP Inc. brand Athleta made news for adding “inclusive sizing.” They even have gone so far as to include “size inclusive” mannequins and train their employees on “body positive” language according to the Forbes article recently covering their new launch. While it’s awesome that they are extending their sizes; their largest size is a 3x (which according to them fits up to a 26). However, when comparing their size chart with a true plus size brand like Torrid; their measurements for a 3x still equate to a Torrid size 24. The reality is, 24 is not considered extended sizes in the plus industry and size 24/3x can be found in most stores including most online boutiques. Once again, the word inclusive literally is panning out to be average.

Why Size Inclusive Language is Problematic

There is nothing wrong with these brands expanding their sizes; I applaud it even. Of course I support any expansion that will allow more body sizes to have access to fashion. However, by using “size inclusive” in the advertising language it’s misleading. And more importantly it’s drowning out the brands that are in fact size inclusive. Women who are size 28+ exist in this world, and I know that because I am one.

When I was at my largest I was a US size 34. It was incredibly difficult to find my size so I looked for brands that specifically used “extended size” or “size inclusive” because it let me know there was a chance I could find my size. As I am currently a size 28, shopping has become a bit easier because a lot of brands do carry up to a 28 and more brands (plus brands specifically) are beginning to include 30/32 in their inventory.

But just like the “bopo movement” has largely become something other than what it was intended to be; the same is happening with size inclusion. Fat bodies are in a space in fashion where we’ve had more access to stylish or trendy clothes than ever before in the fashion history. With the rise of bloggers and social media influencers, reaching the plus audience has become that much more successful than ever before. However, larger bodies are consistently lagging behind in access, visibility and representation.

The Wrap Up

When people hear the voices of extended size women, they tend to silence us. We’re met by “the plus industry is growing, it just takes time” or “we’re so lucky we can get 3x” or my personal favorite “stop hating on these brands.” We are not asking to exclude smaller fat bodies, we are literally asking to actually be included.

As person with a modest social media platform, I have connected with thousands of women at this point who have shared their struggles with shopping over a size 24. I recently launched APY Thrift officially after 3 days of doing flash sales from this site. Each time I posted, items sold out in under 30 minutes. Why? Because access to stylish clothes in extended sizes is limited and rather expensive. Fat tax is real, lets talk about it.(another time).

We are tired of consistently being treated as an afterthought by everyone INCLUDING some of the brands that carry our size but refuse to showcase our bodies on their social media or their websites. (Much like the brands that only post a person of color when it’s trendy). If you are an “influencer”, digital content creator or fashion blogger within this industry or community; use your voice to be an ally to fatter bodies than yours. Speak up and tell the brands you work with that larger bodies want access too. We know it takes time and it won’t happen over night. But it does take effort; so could you at least try to make it?

Until Next Time,